4 September 2013 – Construction of a 50 MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant commenced on 12th of August 2013 on the farm Bokpoort, near Upington, in the Northern Cape, with a projected completion date of 2015.

The project will employ up to 600 people from the surrounding communities during construction and 53 people during its operation. Of the people employed during construction 30% will be previously disadvantaged people from the area.

Handling the independent Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which includes an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) as well as environmental control and monitoring during construction is international consulting engineering company Royal Haskoning DHV.

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Compared with most CSP plants which only have a storage capacity of up to three hours, the installation at Bokpoort can store eight to ten hours of electricity. This technology enhancement of large scale energy storage creates the reality of being able to release the power to the national grid for a period of eight to ten hours after the sun goes down, enabling the use of solar electricity even at night.

Royal Haskoning DHV (then SSI) was appointed in 2010 for the inception phase of the project, to undertake the EIA process for the plant. The work also included amendments to the Environmental Authorisation due to the plant’s design. In addition the company was responsible for the compilation of a Basic Assessment for the pipeline abstraction of water from the Orange River and assisted in applying for the water use licence.

The availability of water for the power plant was a critical consideration in terms of securing water allocations and extended to ensuring that the design of the plant’s cooling system guaranteed the optimal use of water, whilst still achieving the desired generation output and, subsequently, profitability levels.

Amendments to the project’s water-use licence had to be made, owing to the importance of the agricultural sector to the economy of the Upington area and it dependence on the Orange River as a primary source of water. Wastewater is also used in the process of photovoltaic (PV) power generation and will be treated at an on-site wastewater treatment plant and then returned to the CSP system.

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The R4 billion project is being funded by the ACWA power consortium, which comprises Saudi Arabia-based developer, owner and operator of independent power projects ACWA Power and local solar power company SolAfrica.

Royal Haskoning DHV also assisted Eskom with the EIA process for its proposed 100 MW concentrated solar thermal electricity generation plant commonly known as a CSP power tower.